Consumer prices in the US in April showed inflation pressures remain elevated in the US economy while headline prices rose at the slowest annual rate since the period ending April 2021.
According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Wednesday morning, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) revealed headline inflation rose 0.4% over last month and 4.9% over the prior year in April. Prices in March rose 0.1% on a monthly basis and 5% from the prior year.
Economists had expected prices in April to rise 0.4% month-over-month and 5% over last year, according to data from Bloomberg. The 4.9% annual increase, although cooler than March’s gain, is still significantly above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target.
On a “core” basis, which strips out the more volatile costs of food and gas, prices in March climbed 0.4% over the prior month and 5.5% over last year. Both measures were in line with economist expectations, according to Bloomberg data.
Core inflation remained especially sticky last month as rent prices continue to surge. The index for rent and the index for owners’ equivalent rent rose 0.6% and 0.5%, respectively, in April. Owners’ equivalent rent is the hypothetical rent a homeowner would pay.
The shelter index increased 8.1% over the last year, accounting for over 60 percent of the total increase in core inflation.
The energy index decreased 5.1% for the 12 months ending April, while the food index increased 7.7% over the last year. The energy index rose 0.6% from March to April on a seasonally adjusted basis, led by a 3% rise in gas prices.
Fuel oil prices fell 4.5% from the prior month on a seasonally adjusted basis. They were down 20.2% annually, while gas prices were down 12.2% on an annual basis.
Used car and truck prices rose 4.4% from March on a seasonally adjusted basis after several months of consecutive price declines. The jump was the biggest increase since mid-2021.
Food costs continued to see some reprieve in April with the food index unchanged while the food at home index fell 0.2%, the BLS noted. Egg prices fell 1.5% in April after dropping 10.9% in March.
US stocks edged higher in early trading following the release of the data. Treasury yields fell about 6 basis points to around 3.46%.
The Fed has been raising interest rates in an effort to bring down inflation, but the central bank risks sending the economy into recession by raising rates too high too fast. Last week, the Fed signaled it could pause its hikes, saying it would assess incoming data ahead of its June meeting.
“We expect to receive more encouraging news on the inflation front as the economy cools though we won’t reach the Fed’s 2% inflation target for quite some time,” Oren Klachkin, lead US economist at Oxford Economics, wrote in reaction to Wednesday’s report.
“Investors have been betting on Fed rate cuts later this year but we think that view is misguided. We think the Fed will maintain a hawkish bias through year-end and won’t hesitate to raise rates again if inflation and the labor market data surprise strongly to the upside,” Klachkin warned.
Jefferies economist Thomas Simons voiced a slightly different take, writing in a new note that although “inflation remains stubbornly firm…there are some encouraging signs in this data that we haven’t seen in a long time.”
“The bottom line is that this is good news for the Fed, but they will want to see more,” he added.
Wednesday’s inflation data comes after a strong jobs report last Friday. The report contained downward revisions to jobs gains for March and February, however, indicating a resilient but cooling labor market while offering investors some hope the Fed may pause its hikes next month.
Seema Shah, chief global strategist at Principal Asset Management, predicted a pause is on the horizon, writing in a note on Wednesday, “In light of the strong April jobs report, the Fed will be comforted by the [CPI] number and it reinforces the Fed’s policy slant towards a pause.”
Bank of America Research lead economist Michael Gapen agreed, adding in a new note: “While the topline numbers are discouraging, the details were encouraging. We maintain our forecast for the Fed to pause in June, but we still have one more jobs and one more CPI report.”
Following the release of the data, markets were pricing in a roughly 85% chance the Federal Reserve keeps rates unchanged in June, according to data from the CME Group.
By Alexandra Canal / Yahoo Finance